A Wayne Gretzky rookie card has sold for US$465,000 – about $612,000 – smashing the previous record for the most expensive hockey card ever sold.

The previous record was set by a copy of the same 1979 O-Pee-Chee card, which shows an 18-year-old #99 in an Edmonton Oilers jersey. That card sold for US$94,000 in 2011.

The copy that sold Thursday was in better condition, however. In fact, it was the only copy of the card ever graded a 10 out of 10 by a company that examined about 3,500 copies.

Ken Goldin, whose Goldin Auctions sold the card in Atlantic City, N.J. on Thursday, told CTV News Channel that the rookie card sold for so much because it is the “number one hockey card of all time, by far.”

“It comes down to bragging rights between really rich people,” he added. “One person wants to be able to say ‘I own the best and most desirable hockey card of all time.’

Goldin called the amounts Gretzky memorabilia can fetch at auction "an extraordinary statement" about his popularity. After all, ‘The Great One’ is only 55 years old. The card is just 36.

Goldin said 21 bids were placed for the card, but two individuals fought back and forth, placing several bids each before one of them gave up.

Goldin said he thinks the huge price will cause a lot of people to start digging up old hockey cards. “This will usher in a new wave of exponential growth in value and collectability of all hockey cards,” he said.

He added that Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe rookie cards are probably the next most valuable.

“Bobby Orr’s an unbelievable player, extremely popular,” Goldin added. “If you think about it, there were much fewer Bobby Orr cards produced in the ‘60s than Wayne Gretzky in ’79.”

With files from The Canadian Press